Posts Tagged ‘Virginia Commonwealth Rams’

Top Five Potential Landing Spots for Brad Stevens

Dr. Stevens: Professor of Hoops

If Brad Stevens is to leave a perennial Final Four school, Butler, to move up to a bigger job, it has to be one of the traditional, iconic basketball powers. He’s proven that he can win consistently at Butler and moving to another school that hasn’t seen a Final Four in decades or ever, just for a few more dollars, doesn’t seem like the kind of well calculated decision that Stevens would make.

In the four years since replacing Todd Lickliter as the Butler head coach, Stevens has won 116 games going into Saturday’s national semifinal matchup with Virginia Commonwealth. He’s already surpassed the accomplishments of fellow national mid-major darling Gonzaga and other non-BCS schools like Xavier. Memphis is the only other non-BCS school to have comparable success to Butler over the past four seasons, but their compass of success has headed downward since John Calipari left for Kentucky two years ago.

When looking for a situation to compare with Steven’s job at Butler, the coach to look at would be Mark Few at Gonzaga. Few could probably get most, if not all of the jobs that open up every year. But Gonzaga has been able to keep him through big sponsorship money and made-for-TV out of conference matchups that bring in good money and give the program the type of national exposure needed to compete for top recruits. Butler, located in metropolitan Indianapolis, should be able to greatly exceed the revenues generated by Gonzaga, which is in sparsely populated Spokane, Washington. Butler could most likely compensate Stevens more than Few given their market size.

Assuming that money wouldn’t be the ultimate draw for Brad Stevens, which jobs might be able to entice the hottest coaching prospect to come around in years?


This one is pretty obvious and could be realized as soon as next year if Tom Crean is still unable to register his first winning season after four years in Bloomington. Stevens is an Indiana native and grew up dreaming of playing for Bob Knight in Assembly Hall. If Crean were to leave (unlikely) or be let go, Stevens would be the first and, maybe, only call the administration would need to make.


If not Indiana, how about Purdue? The interesting part of this hypothetical situation is that Purdue coach Matt Painter is currently flirting with Missouri and has an interview scheduled for Tuesday with the Big 12 school. While it’s extremely unlikely that Painter would leave his alma mater to go to another job, especially one that would be at best a lateral move, Purdue could call his bluff and let him go to Missouri instead of giving him a raise. Then the door for Stevens to go to Purdue would open. For Purdue to just let Painter walk now, they would have to have assurances through sources that Stevens would be amenable to taking their coaching position.


How can Stevens go from lovable underdog to hated frontrunner? He can replace Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Coach K isn’t going to coach forever (we all hope). Who would be a better selection to fill the shoes of the soon-to-be all time leader in wins than Brad Stevens? Coach K has turned Duke into the biggest brand name in college basketball. Coach K has built the program into one that chooses recruits, not the other way around. Avoiding the recruiting cesspool could be a major draw to Stevens. In addition, Duke will be looking for a coach who understands how things work at a smaller, private school and Stevens brings that experience.


The seat in Westwood might be lukewarm for Ben Howland right now, but another season like 2009-10 and the Bruins could be looking for a new coach. The last time UCLA hired an Indiana native with spectacles; he ran off 9 NCAA championships in 10 years and added another one to make it 10 out of 12. Based on his professorial look, persona, and on-court success, Stevens is beginning to resemble a modern day John Wooden.


What makes Stevens so unusual at the college level is his coolness under fire. He always seems to be in control of his emotions and rarely shows any on the sidelines. One of the reasons why college coaches have difficulty adjusting to the NBA is their inability to take a step back from the micromanaging world of college basketball. Most college coaches who didn’t last in the NBA, like Rick Pitino and John Calipari, have difficulty with pulling back and letting their players go and play. Stevens’ sideline demeanor is what NBA teams want on the sidelines, as opposed to the typical emotional college coach.

For the good of the college game, it would be nice if he stayed. Hopefully, with Stevens, all good things don’t have to come to an end.


Bruce Pearl Is Reportedly Done at Tennessee

Pearl is done at Tennessee

The University of Tennessee has made the inevitable official. Bruce Pearl was reportedly told that he will not return next season as the coach of the men’s basketball team at the university. On Friday, Pearl coached his final game for the school, guiding the team to a 75-45 loss to Michigan in their first tournament game.

No Tennessee men’s coach can match Pearl’s six NCAA tournament bids and he owns eight of the school’s sixteen tournament wins all time. In the 2007-08 season, the school rose to the #1 ranking in the polls for the first and only time in the history of the program.

In the four seasons prior to Pearl’s arrival in Knoxville, previous coach Buzz Peterson failed to make the NCAA tournament and had losing seasons in two of his four seasons as coach.

Despite the NCAA rules violations, including lying about a barbeque involving recruits at his home and a secondary violation regarding contact with a recruit following the first violations, Pearl remains extremely popular among the supporters of the program. Tennessee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton is going to have a difficult time trying to replace the highly successful and energetic Pearl.

The biggest reason for letting go of Pearl was to limit the penalties that will come down from the NCAA later this year. SEC conference commissioner Mike Slive suspended Pearl for the first eight games of the SEC season. Getting rid of Pearl implies that the university expects more sanctions to come and hopes soften the blow by terminating the cause of the problems, Pearl.

The smart move would have been to be proactive and institute penalties when this season went downhill. Slive actually helped them with this by suspending Pearl for the SEC games. In addition, they could have shown good faith by implementing a one year ban on postseason play a month ago when this team was obviously not going to make a long run in March. That gesture, along with a few other minor penalties, might have been enough for the NCAA to leave their basketball program alone and enable the school to keep Pearl.

This isn’t an easy job, as evidenced by only five NCAA bids in the 22 years prior to Pearl’s arrival. The Vols start every season looking up at Kentucky in the SEC East and also the 2006 and 2007 NCAA champion, Florida, resides in the division as well. The SEC is consistently a 5-6 bid league, but with two bids typically gone in November, that leaves only 3-4 bids for the remaining 10 schools. Enticing a coach to compete in the difficult SEC East with looming sanctions is going to be difficult.

Pearl is far and away the most popular coach in the program’s history. Replacing his energy and enthusiasm will not be easy. While Tennessee is consistently among the top 20 programs in attendance each season, their huge arena, Thompson-Boling Arena, is the sixth largest in Division I at a capacity of over 21,000. Even at 15,000 per game, there are a lot of empty seats. Losing a few more thousand per game could make it even worse in the cavernous arena. Getting a new coach to embrace the challenge of filling those seats will be difficult.

Many of the players have implied that they will not return if Pearl is not retained. Freshman forward Tobias Harris was vocal over the weekend about leaving if Pearl was fired. He’ll probably follow through with leaving now that Pearl has been released.

 Who will be the coach to replace Pearl at Tennessee?  One has to figure that they won’t be able to get an “A” list coach to take over a program with sanctions. So it will most likely be a mid-major coach who might have some baggage, a former major coach looking for a second chance, or an assistant like current associate head coach Tony Jones, who coached the team while Pearl was suspended for the first eight conference games.

Would up-and-coming coaches like VCU’s Shaka Smart and Richmond’s Chris Mooney be interested? Both are only located a couple hundred miles away in Richmond, Virginia and could be targeted when their teams are eliminated from the tournament. When you have your pick of jobs, like Smart and Mooney will have, why would you take on a situation like Tennessee? Current assistant Tony Jones might be the best pick as he would be able to provide the easiest transition, especially if they are trying to retain their current players.

One thing to keep in mind is that with looming sanctions, the North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, and Arkansas jobs are all better jobs than this one. Basketball doesn’t take a backseat to football at the ACC schools and Arkansas is historically a much better program on the court and supported more by the fans and alumni than Tennessee. Oklahoma is also a major conference team that is looking for a coach and doesn’t provide the obstacles that the Tennessee job offers. The administrators at Tennessee might think they have a great job to offer, but it’s probably not enough to convince successful mid-major coaches to jump in. They might have to settle for a coach on the rebound, like former Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, to help turn this situation around.

Assuming the school is intent on hiring a coach before the NCAA hearing, the new coach will have to blindly sign on with the hope that the sanctions won’t be too severe and that he doesn’t lose any of the returning players. Otherwise, Tennessee could be looking a major rebuilding job that takes years to fix and it might take a second head coach to be hired down the road to complete the job.

The University of Tennessee’s men’s basketball program might look a lot like Indiana’s did three years ago when Tom Crean took over. Crean has failed to have a winning season in Bloomington since being hired. Think about that. That’s Indiana, home of five national championships and a tremendous statewide following and tradition. It could get much worse than that at football centric Tennessee without Pearl.

The University of Tennessee had a choice in this situation. They got greedy and tried to benefit from Pearl’s coaching this season and try to make a final run in the NCAA tournament when self-imposing a one year tournament ban during a lost season would have proven that they were proactive and serious about the violations. That fizzled out and there might only be the charred remains of a once strong program remaining when this is done.

NCAA Tournament Daily Breakdown March 21

Good thing football is king in Austin

Here’s a look back at Sunday’s excitement in the NCAA tournament:

Best Finish

Arizona’s win over boneheaded Texas was the day’s best finish. I know everybody is shocked, but Rick Barnes led another team that fizzled out in March. Based on mid-February commentary, Texas appeared to be a super team that nobody could beat, despite their record. Now they’re done. Jordan Hamilton called an inexplicable timeout after coming down with the rebound and about 10 seconds remaining and the Horns up two. Then the Longhorns were called for a five second violation on the inbounds to turn the ball over. But the insanity wasn’t done, as Derrick Williams decided to win a game late offensively instead of blocking a shot as he made a shot while being fouled to tie the game. Of course, he then completed the three point play. Texas was unable to score and the Wildcats move on to face North Carolina.

Best Performance – Team

Ohio State: The Buckeyes were all over George Mason early and often in their 32 point blowout yesterday. The Buckeyes made 16 of 26 three point shots as David Lighty made all seven of his attempts from long range. This team won’t be beaten by anybody if they can’t stop the perimeter shooting. I haven’t heard anybody talk about wanting to be “this year’s George Mason” since this game finished.

Best Performance – Player

Kendall Marshall: This freshman point guard is special. Marshall led the Tar Heels up and down the court all day dishing 14 assists while scoring 13 points and he even pulled down 5 rebounds. The Tar Heels might be able to go as far as their freshmen take them and Marshall is the key running the point.

What’s Happening to the Big East

With the Notre Dame loss to Florida State, the Big East only has two teams remaining and those teams only made it by beating fellow Big East teams. What looked like a dominating conference that might place up to 7 or 8 teams into the Sweet 16, collapsed due in part to injuries, teams peaking too soon, and just bad matchups. Connecticut and Marquette, the 9th and 11th place finishers during the regular season, are the only teams remaining. Maybe there was an advantage to playing in the opening round of the Big East tournament after all.  

Sweet 16 Conference Breakdown:

ACC – 3 (Duke, UNC, FSU)
Big East – 2 (UConn, Marquette)
Mountain West – 2 (BYU, SDSU)
SEC – 2 (Kentucky, Florida)
Big Ten – 2 (Ohio State, Wisconsin)
Big 12 – 1 (Kansas)
A-10 – 1 (Richmond)
Pac 10 – 1 (Arizona)
Colonial – 1 (VCU)
Horizon – 1 (Butler)

Coaches Who Made the Most $$$

Shaka Smart of Virginia Commonwealth continues to lead his Cinderella Rams to upset after upset. Despite being deemed not worthy enough of a tournament invite by most (read: ESPN) talking heads, the Rams are now the only team with three wins in the tournament as they head to San Antonio. The 33 year old coach is sure to have an opportunity to coach at a higher level after this season. Where might he go and how much could he get? Those two ACC schools (NC State and Georgia Tech) have to have him on the radar and could Smart go home to Milwaukee to replace Buzz Williams if he leaves Marquette? Williams is also in the name your price for the job you want group.

Coaches Who Will Have a Little Pressure on them Next Season

Rick Barnes and Mike Brey were the flavor of the week, depending on the week during February. Both of their teams, Texas and Notre Dame were expected to make long runs in the tournament and not making it past the first weekend is sure to bother the fans and alums. It probably a good thing that they both coach at football crazy schools since these early flameouts will most likely be forgotten after the first play of the spring football games at each school.

Coach With His “Us against the World” Speech Ready

John Calipari: Nobody gives this speech better than the “eternal underdog” Cal. From his time at UMass to the Nets to Memphis and now poor old Kentucky, Calipari will find every possible angle and prediction to paint his team as the most underrated, underappreciated, underestimated team of all-time. Against Ohio State, Cal gets to use his favorite play in his playbook and he better. For the first time in a while, Cal and his team are really undermanned for this moment. Calipari has never pulled off an upset based on seed in the NCAA tournament; he gets another chance against the Buckeyes.

Sweet 16 Schedule:

Thursday March 24th:

(3 West)Connecticut vs. (2 West) San Diego State on CBS at 7:15 EDT

(3 Southeast)Brigham Young vs. (2 East) Florida on TBS at 7:27 EDT

(5 West)Arizona vs. (1 West) Duke on CBS at 9:45 EDT

(8 Southeast)Butler vs. (2 East) Wisconsin on TBS at 9:57 EDT

Friday March 24th:

(11 East)Marquette vs. (2 East) North Carolina on CBS at 7:15 EDT

(12 Southwest) Richmond vs. (1 Southwest) Kansas on TBS at 7:27 EDT

(4 East)Kentucky vs. (1 East) Ohio State on CBS at 9:45 EDT

 (11 Southwest)Virginia Commonwealth vs. (10 Southwest) Florida State on TBS at 9:57 EDT

NCAA Tournament First, um, Second Round Breakdown

At least somebody is excited

The first, um, second round was so underwhelming that I don’t really want to recap it. But, I’ll try to highlight a few items.

Best Finish

There’s a couple to choose from, mostly from the first games of Thursday. Butler over Old Dominion, Temple over Penn State, and Morehead State over Louisville headline the group. Kentucky doesn’t get any credit for their overall mediocre performance. As for Friday, George Mason over Villanova and Arizona over Memphis were the only good finishes. The Georgia loss to Washington was almost as bad to watch as the Michigan State near comeback over UCLA. Just Pac 10 teams showing what they have (or not). But the best goes to Butler as the red light was on when the unheralded Matt Howard got the put back at the buzzer.

Best Performance – Team

Gonzaga: St. John’s looked like a potential Final Four team three weeks ago and Gonzaga didn’t even appear headed to the tournament. Three weeks later and the talking heads are picking the Bulldogs to beat BYU after their dominating performance against the Johnnies. Marquise Carter continues to improve since being inserted into the starting lineup over a month ago as he scored a career high 24 points. The relatively young Bulldogs continue to improve and could be a sleeper pick to make it to Houston.

Best Performance – Player

Kenneth Faried of Morehead State didn’t shoot the lights out, but he willed his team to the upset victory over Louisville on Thursday. The modern era rebound king of college basketball pulled down 17 boards and made the game winning defensive play by blocking the shot of Mike Marra as time expired. When the final score is 62-61, defense plays a big role and nobody came up bigger in the first round both defensively and on the boards than Faried.

In the shadow of the Big East

The CAA and Atlantic 10 have two of their three teams remaining going into the weekend. With Richmond playing 13th seeded Morehead State, the A-10 might keep their Sweet 16 streak alive even with Xavier out. The last time an A-10 missed out on the Sweet 16 was 2007. The Spiders should keep that streak alive. If the CAA advances, it would be impressive against either Purdue or Ohio State. Beating the Buckeyes this season would be an even greater feat than beating #1 seed UConn in 2006 for George Mason.

Coach Who Made the Most $$$

Tie: Both Shaka Smart of VCU and Buzz Williams of Marquette are reportedly hot candidates and improved their negotiating position with impressive wins in the first, um, second round matchups on Friday. Both would make tremendous choices as Smart, embodying his last name, actually turned down Harvard, Yale, and Brown to go to a Division III school to play basketball. Williams has been rock solid in his three seasons since taking over for Tom Crean at Marquette with NCAA tournament appearances in all three seasons. There might not have been a better coaching job than Williams’ ability to get his team to completely shut down Atlantic 10 POY Tu Holloway. Holloway didn’t score until there was about 10 minutes remaining in the game and the result wasn’t in doubt.

Player Who Declared for the 2011 NBA Draft at Halftime of His Game

Tobias Harris of Tennessee went to halftime of their game against Michigan with 19 points and the Volunteers were down by only four points. Twenty minutes later and Harris still had 19 points and the Vols had lost by 30.

Look ahead to Saturday and Sunday:

Best Matchup:

Um, there might not be one. Ok, how about Kentucky and West Virginia? It’s a rematch of last year Elite Eight matchup in Syracuse and Huggins owns Calipari. Owns as in Huggins is 8-1 against Cal. If Cal can’t win this one, well, he might never beat Huggy again.

Upset Special:

Strictly by seeding, Marquette beating Syracuse would be a repeat of their regular season matchup. That’s how ridiculous it was to have Marquette as an 11 seed, especially when Michigan got an 8 seed. Another game would be Gonzaga over BYU, but everybody seems to be picking that. I’m going to give you Kansas State over Wisconsin in another Big Ten game that might involve peach baskets. Jacob Pullen seems to be willing this team over the past month and Curtis Kelly has finally started to play like the player K-State thought they were getting when he transferred from UConn two years ago. Kelly is getting about 15 points and 8 rebounds per game over the last 5 games.  

Gus Johnson Special:

Gus surely will be involved in another buzzer beater this weekend and there are two games to choose from. First will be George Mason and Ohio State at 5:15 EST on Sunday and that will be followed by Marquette and Syracuse. One of those games is GUARANTEED to have a great ending. I’m offering a free subscription to my blog to anybody who doesn’t get their money’s worth out of those two games on Sunday.

Filling In the Brackets: 2011 NCAA Tournament

Bracket Gold!

I’m going to take my annual futile stab at bracket prognostication. There might be more letters in the last word of the first sentence than I will have correct picks. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve overloaded on college basketball this season, but my picks look a lot like those TV guys.

In the East Region, I’m picking Ohio State to roll through it. The Buckeyes might not win a game by less than double digits as they should beat George Mason, West Virginia, and North Carolina to get to Houston. The Buckeyes haven’t shown any true weaknesses, except playing against top 15 Big Ten schools on the road. While freshman forward Jared Sullinger gets most of the attention, their three man backcourt of David Lighty, Jon Diebler, and William Buford are stellar. When March rolls around, the teams with the best backcourts advance and the Buckeyes might have the best in the country.

As for the rest of the region, I like West Virginia to beat Kentucky, mostly because Huggins destroys Calipari head-to-head. In nine meetings, Huggins has won eight, including last year’s Elite Eight matchup in Syracuse. On the bottom of the East, I like UNC to beat Xavier in a tough Sweet 16 matchup. Holloway is really good for the X-Men, but freshmen Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall have been spectacular over the past six weeks. Xavier will beat Syracuse and UNC will beat Washington to get to the Sweet 16.

In the West, I like San Diego State. There might not be a more complete defensive team in the tournament than the Aztecs. They have a number of players who can switch and defend different positions and when they beat Connecticut in the Sweet 16, it will be because of forward Billy White. They will have White hound the smaller Kemba Walker all game and it won’t be a mismatch in favor of Walker. White was used by Coach Steve Fisher on Jimmer Fredette in their matchups and his agility and length gave The Jimmer problems when they were matched up. The Aztecs will also beat Temple and Texas to make the Final Four.

The rest of the West will have Texas beating Arizona and then Tennessee in the Sweet 16 before falling to the Aztecs. Tennessee might save Bruce Pearl’s job by beating Duke on Sunday. The Vols have big wins and crazy losses on the season and beating Duke would be consistent with their inconsistency. Texas and Tennessee, I believe, are destined to meet each other. There aren’t two teams in the tournament who have shown more promise and then bombed out like these two. As for the biggest first round (or is it second) upset? It will be Missouri over Cincinnati.

The Southwest Region will be won by Kansas. The Jayhawks are clearly one of the two best teams in the tournament, along with Ohio State. They will beat UNLV, Louisville, and Notre Dame to get to Houston. That road will not be easy. Unlike Ohio State, Kansas will have to play really well in each of their games to avoid an upset. The Big East has been incredible this season, as their record eleven tournament bids would indicate. Every game is a slugfest and Kansas could be worn down by the time they reach Houston. The biggest advantage they have is their depth and balance. They have ten players who average over 11 minutes per game and have eight players who average at least 5 points per game.

The rest of the Southwest will see the highly anticipated game between Notre Dame and Purdue with the Irish winning. That might be the most anticipated Sweet 16 game next week. Notre Dame will have to beat Texas A&M to get there and Purdue will knock off VCU. Yes, the Rams of VCU will use their opening round momentum to upset Georgetown, who hasn’t been the same without Chris Wright and will struggle to regain their pre-injury form even if he returns. VCU’s cross town rival, Richmond will beat Vanderbilt in the 12-5 upset and then lose to Louisville on the weekend.

The Southeast Region will be won by Pittsburgh. I know three #1 seeds. But if Jamie Dixon is to lead the Panthers to the Final Four, this is the season. The Panthers have a favorable draw as they will beat Old Dominion, Kansas State, and BYU to get to Houston. The Monarchs of ODU could be the Cinderella team with a deep tournament run, but the Panthers might be the worst matchup for them because of their similar styles. Physical play, defense, and intangible play by Brad Wanamaker will be the key to Pittsburgh’s overall success.

The rest of the Southeast will have Jimmer and BYU beating Florida and Gonzaga before falling to Pitt. Kansas State will benefit from Belmont’s upset of Wisconsin to get to the Sweet 16. Florida will beat Michigan State before falling to BYU.

The Final Four matchups are these: Ohio State versus San Diego State and Kansas versus Pittsburgh. Ohio State will beat San Diego State in a close game. This will be closer than any game they play in the entire tournament up to this point. While the Aztecs are really good defensively, the Buckeyes have too many weapons and they typically don’t have anybody on the court that can’t score. In addition, the overall size of the Buckeyes backcourt will take its toll on the small backcourt for San Diego State.

In the other semifinal, Pittsburgh will upset Kansas as the Jayhawks will not be able to beat a Big East team in three straight games. This game might not be that easy on the eyes, but it should be tight and come down to the end. The Panthers have the size and toughness to matchup with the Morris twins and unless Josh Selby finally shows up, the Panthers are good enough defensively to shut down the Jayhawks backcourt. The bottom line with this pick is that I said a month ago that I didn’t think a team could beat three Big East teams in a row and that’s what Kansas will have to do to win it.

That leaves a championship game between Ohio State and Pittsburgh. These are the regular season champions of the two best conferences during the season. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the Buckeyes are just too good. They have too many weapons for even Pittsburgh’s staunch defense to shut down. Barring an incredibly rough shooting night for Diebler and Buford, the Buckeyes should win this game by 6-8 points.

There’s the bracket breakdown, please don’t send me a bill for your poor bracket results.

Making the Case against the Teams Whose Bubbles Burst

March 14, 2011 1 comment

Maybe Colorado won't play 7 sub 295 RPI teams next year

This isn’t meant as a defense of the selection committee or any of the questionable teams that were selected to the NCAA tournament. In reality, only 50-something teams really deserved to be selected to the 68-team Big Dance. This is about those controversial teams that were left out and the reasons why these schools do not have any reason to complain.

Virginia Tech: Yes, America’s bubble team had its hopes shattered again. For starters, the Hokies were only 9-7 in the 5th ranked conference. They were swept by Virginia (RPI 139) and NIT-bound Boston College, added a bad loss at Georgia Tech, and suffered a crippling season ending loss at Clemson. In addition, they beat FSU based on an overturned game winning basket in the ACC quarterfinals that was debatable. The only top 50 RPI team in the ACC that they beat was Duke.

The Hokies OOC schedule was ranked 180 out of 340. They played 6 teams with RPIs of over 230. They went 2-3 against top 100 teams OOC. How difficult would it be for Seth Greenburg to replace UNC-Greensboro (RPI 297), USC Upstate (313), Mount St. Mary’s (231), and Longwood (320) on his schedule? If he played and beat Virginia NCAA tournament schools like Old Dominion, VCU, George Mason, and Richmond, they would have been a lock for selection.

VCU went 3-6 against the top 50 and Tech was only 2-5. How does a CAA team play more top 50 games than an ACC team? Only cowardly scheduling sent the Hokies back to the NIT.

Colorado: The media would have you think that the Buffaloes survived a gauntlet of difficult games throughout the season. They are wrong. The Buffaloes OOC schedule was ranked 331 out of 340. They only went 10-4 against that group of teams. Their best win was against a bad Indiana (RPI 190). They played 7 teams with a RPI of 295 or more. In games against teams with a RPI of less than 295, they went 13-13. They won half and lost half.

Lowering the RPI threshold, the Buffaloes went 10-13 against the top 150 teams. Is that really at-large material there? Sure, they beat a few good teams, including Texas and Kansas State three times. But it’s not about head-to-head results and a splashy win or two for the selection committee. It’s about the overall profile.

Schools like Colorado have more choices than their mid-major counterparts when selecting OOC opponents. Instead of scheduling better teams, they scheduled gimme games to pad their win total. If they played 7 OOC teams between 100-150 in the RPI instead of 295 and over, they would be headed to the Big Dance. It’s that plain and simple.

Alabama: Don’t let the fact that the Crimson Tide is in the SEC fool you. The SEC West as a standalone conference would have easily been ranked behind every mid-major conference that received an at-large bid. The SEC West is home to Auburn (RPI 255), LSU (224), Arkansas (124), and Mississippi State (119). With 8 games against those schools, it’s no wonder that this team went 12-4 in SEC play. In addition, all of their key SEC wins were against vulnerable teams. Kentucky was awful away from Rupp, going 4-7 in true road games. Tennessee didn’t have Bruce Pearl for their loss to Alabama and were a poor home team all season.

The Tide schedule was ranked 294. They went 8-6 against those teams. The highest RPI of an OOC team that they beat was Lipscomb at 131. Overall, Alabama went 10-11 against the top 200 teams in the RPI. Is that really the mark of a quality at-large team? Have the standards dropped that much? They only had one win OOC against top 200 teams. I rest my case, your honor.

Saint Mary’s: The Gaels were a mid-major “snub” that many in the national media love. The problem is that many talking heads don’t follow the games as closely as you would expect an “expert” would. The issues for the Gaels began back on February 16 in San Diego. That night the Gaels lost to USD on national television by eight. The trouble is that USD won only 4 games against Division 1 schools all season, including the St. Mary’s win, and they have a RPI of 318. This was easily the worst loss of any prospective at-large candidate that made it in front of the selection committee.

In addition to losing in San Diego, the Gaels followed that with home losses to Utah State and Gonzaga. For a mid-major school like St. Mary’s to receive an at-large bid, they have to schedule and win against good teams OOC and take care of business in their own league.

The Gaels only quality OOC win was against St. John’s in Steve Lavin’s coaching debut. They lost to BYU, San Diego State, Vanderbilt, and Utah State. But with only one top 50 win all season, it was tough for the Gaels to overcome their horrible loss to San Diego. They also played 5 OOC teams with RPIs over 240. At the end of the day, the Gaels didn’t beat enough good teams and lost to a really bad one.

Harvard: The case against Harvard became easy when the brackets were announced. Their two best wins were against Boston College and Colorado. They now have a chance at a rematch with both in the NIT.

The message from the selection committee should be clear. Teams need to schedule better to improve their at-large chances and seeding for the NCAA tournament. There are teams that made the tournament with similar records, but their schedules were the difference. Why does 22-10 Kansas State have a 5 seed and 23-10 Missouri have an 11 seed? They are both in the Big 12 with Colorado. It’s the schedule.

The bottom line is that tougher scheduling and avoiding poor losses goes a long way to eliminating a team’s question marks that could burst their bubble on Selection Sunday. Maybe next year Virginia Tech will actually schedule some CAA teams and Alabama will play UAB to decide their fates on the court. Or maybe they’ll play Russian roulette with their tournament chances again.

Mid Major Basketball Overview March 8

It's a Cinderella story

Mid Major Basketball Overview March 8

Team Overviews: Records are going into March 8th. RPI is courtesy of

Current NCAA Locks:

Old Dominion Monarchs RPI 23 –CAA Champion

  • 27-6, 14-4 in CAA   Away: 8-4  Neutral:  5-0
  • OOC rundown: 10-2 – Wins: Clemson, Xavier, Richmond, Dayton, and Cleveland State. Losses: Georgetown and Missouri. They also have 4 gimme wins. RPI 13, schedule 16.
  • CAA Wins: at Tow, NE, GM, at Hof, JMU, UNCW, at GSU, Tow, Del, at W&M, at VCU, GSU, at JMU, W&M  Losses: at Del, at Drex, VCU, at GM
  • The Monarchs have won 9 in a row and 13 of 14 in winning the CAA. As for seeding, they should be either a 6 or 7 seed. Anything worse would be an injustice. Profile will be better than Pac 10 and A-10 champs.

Gonzaga Bulldogs RPI 55 –WCC Champion

  • 24-9, 11-3 in WCC  Away: 7-5   Neutral: 3-0
  • OOC rundown: 11-6 – Wins: Marquette, Baylor, Xavier, and Oklahoma State. Losses: San Diego State, Kansas State, Illinois, Washington State, Notre Dame, and Memphis. They also have 3 gimme wins and one non division I win. RPI 79, schedule 37.
  • WCC Wins: Port, Pep, LMU, USD, at Port, LMU, at Pepp, SCU, USF, at SMC, at USD    Losses: at SCU, at USF, SMC
  • The Bulldogs have won 11 of 12 to claim the WCC automatic bid. They look like an 11 seed with the ability to move up or down one line from there. A single digit seed looks like a long shot.

George Mason Patriots RPI 27

  • 26-6, 16-2 in CAA   Away: 10-4   Neutral:  2-2
  • OOC rundown: 9-3 – Wins: Harvard, Duquesne, and Northern Iowa. Losses: NC State, Wofford, and Dayton. They also have 4 gimme wins. RPI 42, schedule 86.
  • CAA Wins: UNCW, Del, at NE, GSU, Drex, at JMU, at Del, Tow, at W&M, Hof, ODU, at UNCW, JMU, at VCU, NE, at GSU    Losses: at Hof, at ODU
  • The Patriots had their 16 game winning streak snapped by VCU in the CAA semis. There doesn’t appear to be a way that they don’t make the tourney, but you never know. Unless something goofy happens, Mason looks like an 8-9 game participant.


Bubble Territory:

UAB Blazers RPI 28

  • 22-7, 12-4 in CUSA  Away: 9-5   Neutral: 0-0
  • OOC rundown: 10-3 – Wins: Arkansas and VCU. Losses: Arizona State, Georgia, and Duke. They also have 6 gimme wins. RPI 52, schedule 164.
  • CUSA Wins: UTEP, at ECU, SMU, Mar, at UCF, at Tula, at Mar, Rice, UCF, at Hou, at USM, ECU   Losses: at Tuls, Mem, USM, at Mem
  • The Blazers have to avoid the potential first game upset in the CUSA tournament. After the first game, they are lined up to play Memphis and if the two meet, the winner should be a lock at-large heading to the CUSA finals. That win over VCU could come in pretty handy on Sunday. But the Georgia loss could hurt them.

Utah State Aggies RPI 18

  • 28-3, 15-1 in WAC  Away: 9-3   Neutral:
  • OOC rundown: 13-2 – Wins: St. Mary’s. Losses: at BYU, at Georgetown. They also have 9 gimme wins and 1 non division I win. RPI 20, schedule 111.
  • The Aggies got the solid win at St Mary’s and are now a legit at-large candidate. But they can’t lose until the WAC final to ensure that at-large.

Butler Bulldogs RPI 37

  • 22-9, 13-5 in HOR  Away: 6-6   Neutral:
  • OOC rundown: 8-4 – Wins: Stanford, Washington State, and Florida State. Losses: Louisville, Evansville, Duke, and Xavier. They also have 1 gimme win and a non division I win. RPI 34, schedule 13.
  • HOR Wins: at Loy, Valp, CSU, YSU, at Det, UWGB, at CSU, UIC, WSU, Det, at UWGB, at UIC, Loy  Losses: at UWM, at WSU, UWM, at Val, at YSU
  • The Bulldogs seven game winning streak to end the regular season has to help. Their RPI is high, but they probably have to make the Horizon finals to be an at-large. Last year could help them, although it shouldn’t.

Memphis Tigers RPI 38

  • 22-9, 10-6 in CUSA  Away: 4-6   Neutral:  0-1
  • OOC rundown: 12-3 – Wins: Miami (FL) and Gonzaga. Losses: Kansas, Georgetown, and Tennessee. They also have 5 gimme wins. RPI 63, schedule 119.
  • CUSA Wins: ECU, Mar, at USM, at UAB, UCF, at UCF, USM, UAB, Hou, Tula    Losses: at SMU, at Mar, Tuls, at Rice, at UTEP, at ECU
  • Memphis needs to make the CUSA finals by beating UAB to have a chance at an at-large bid. Their 5-6 finish is entirely unimpressive. They don’t have a win over an at-large team, since Gonzaga the auto-bid and might not have made it. A loss to UAB would be crippling as their sweep is the only thing making them equal right now.

Virginia Commonwealth Rams RPI 48

  • 23-11, 12-6 in CAA  Away: 8-6   Neutral:  2-1
  • OOC rundown: 9-4 – Wins: UCLA and Wichita State. Losses: Tennessee, South Florida, Richmond, and UAB. They also have 5 gimme wins. RPI 57, schedule 110.
  • CAA Wins: W&M, Drex, at UNCW, at W&M, NE, GSU, at ODU, at Tow, Hof, UNCW, at JMU, at Del   Losses: at GSU, at NE, ODU, GMU, at Drex, JMU
  • Tough loss to ODU in the CAA championship game. This is the ultimate bubble team. They have two very good CAA wins over Mason and ODU to go along with their OOC work. A comparison between the Rams and St. Mary’s would seem to indicate a slight edge for the Rams. It will come down to BCS conference mediocrity versus solid mid-majors like VCU. If they do get in, expect them to play in the opening round play-in game.

Saint Mary’s Gaels RPI 47

  • 24-8, 11-3 in WCC  Away: 7-4   Neutral:  3-2
  • OOC rundown: 12-4 – Wins: St. John’s. Losses: San Diego State, BYU, Vanderbilt, and Utah State. They also have 3 gimme wins and Weber State remaining. RPI 41, schedule 36.
  • WCC Wins: at LMU, at Pep, USF, SC, USD, at Gon, Pep, LMU, at SC, at USF, Port   Losses: at Port, at USD, Gon
  • The Gaels are now a coin flip for the Big Dance after losing 4 of 6 going into their final game on Friday against Weber State. A loss there and they’re done. If they do get an at-large, they will probably be playing in the opening round play-in game. We’re going to see how good that opening game win over St. John’s really is.


Still Alive:

Texas-El Paso Miners RPI 60

  • 23-8, 11-5 in CUSA  Away: 5-5   Neutral:  1-1
  • OOC rundown: 12-3 – Wins: Michigan. Losses: Pacific, Georgia Tech, and BYU. They also have 5 gimme wins and a non division I win. RPI 82, schedule 168.
  • CUSA Wins: Tuls, at Tula, Rice, at Hou, Tula, at Rice, SMU, Hou, Mem, Mar, at SMU   Losses: at UAB, at Tuls, at USM, UCF, at ECU
  • The Miners would probably need a miracle even if they lost to UAB or Memphis in the CUSA finals. But the bubble is a strange place this season and there might be something in their profile that the selection committee likes. The win over Michigan for instance.

Marshall Thundering Herd RPI 49

  • 21-10, 9-7 in CUSA  Away: 6-7   Neutral:  1-0
  • OOC rundown: 12-3 – Wins: West Virginia. Losses: Chattanooga, at Louisville, at James Madison. They also have 6 gimme wins and two non division I wins. RPI 64, schedule 155.
  • CUSA Wins: USM, Mem, at Hou, at ECU, Rice, at Tula, Tuls, SMU, UCF   Losses: at UCF, at Mem, ECU, at UAB, at USM, UAB, at UTEP
  • The Herd probably needs to make the CUSA finals to have a chance at an at-large. Their RPI is in range, but is the win over West Virginia going to be enough as they have some bad losses? The soft bubble awaits them if they make the finals.


Probably Not:

Missouri State Bears RPI 41

  • 25-8, 15-3 in MVC  Away: 7-6   Neutral: 3-1
  • OOC rundown: 8-4 – Wins: No notables. Losses: Tennessee, Tulsa, Oklahoma State, and Valparaiso. They also have 4 gimme wins. RPI 95, schedule 165.
  • MVC Wins: at UNI, Ill St, at Cre, Evan, at Wich St, S Ill, at Brad, Cre, at Dra, Ind St, Brad, Ill St, Dra  Losses: at Ind St, UNI, at Evan
  • It’s highly unlikely that the committee is going to be more impressed by the Bears than any of the CAA teams or St. Mary’s. There will have to be an avalanche of mid-majors selected to get any Valley at-large bids.

Cleveland State Vikings RPI 42

  • 26-8, 13-5 in HOR  Away: 9-5   Neutral: 1-1
  • OOC rundown: 11-2 – Wins: No notable wins. Losses: West Virginia and Old Dominion. They also have 3 gimme wins. RPI 14, schedule 38.
  • HOR Wins: at UWGB, at UWM, Loy, UIC, at YSU, Det, WSU, at UIC, at Loy, Val, YSU, at WSU, UWGB  Losses: at But, at Val, But, at Det, UWM
  • Solid RPI, but who have they beaten? Beating Butler just once might have done it for them. The one thing the Vikings have going for them is that the committee chairman said that he’s more impressed by wins than anything else. Those 26 wins look nice if that’s true.

Wichita State Shockers RPI 61

  • 24-8, 14-4 in MVC  Away: 9-2   Neutral: 2-2
  • OOC rundown: 9-3 – Wins: Virginia and Tulsa. Losses: Connecticut, San Diego State, and Virginia Commonwealth. They also have 4 gimme wins and non division I win over Chaminade. RPI 76, schedule 89.
  • MVC Wins: Evan, at Brad, Dra, at Ill St, at Cre, at Dra, Ind St, at S Ill, Brad, at Ind St, Ill St, at UNI, at Evan, Cre     Losses: Mizz St, UNI, S Ill, at Mizz St
  • Highly doubtful given their late season home loss to VCU and semifinals loss to Indiana State.


Keeping an eye on:

Harvard (Ivy) RPI 36 23-5/12-2: Harvard could lose to Princeton in a playoff game and earn the Ivy’s first at-large bid ever. Wins over BC and Colorado make them a legitimate at-large prospect if they lose to the Tigers. It’s a weak bubble year.

Make sure you check in every morning for a review of the previous day’s games on the Road to Selection Sunday.